1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eusebius of Nicomedia

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21672921911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9 — Eusebius of Nicomedia

EUSEBIUS [of Nicomedia] (d. 341?), Greek bishop and theologian, was the defender of Arius in a still more avowed manner than his namesake of Caesarea, and from him the Eusebian or middle party specially derived its name, giving him in return the epithet of Great. He was a contemporary of the bishop of Caesarea, and united with him in the enjoyment of the friendship and favour of the imperial family. He is said to have been connected by his mother with the emperor Julian, whose early tutor he was. His first bishopric was Berytus (Beirut) in Phoenicia, but his name is especially identified with the see of Nicomedia, which, from the time of Diocletian till Constantine established his court at Byzantium, was regarded as the capital of the eastern part of the empire. He warmly espoused the cause of Arius in his quarrel with his bishop Alexander, and wrote a letter in his defence to Paulinus, bishop of Tyre, which is preserved in the Church History of Theodoret. Trained in the school of Lucian of Antioch, his views appear to have been identical with those of Eusebius of Caesarea in placing Christ above all created beings, the only begotten of the Father, but in refusing to recognize him to be “of the same substance” with the Father, who is alone in essence and absolute being.

At the council of Nicaea Eusebius of Nicomedia earnestly opposed, along with his namesake of Caesarea, the insertion of the Homousian clause, but after being defeated in his object he also signed the creed in his own sense of ὅμοιος κατ᾽ οὐοίαν. He refused, however, to sign the anathema directed against the Arians, not, as he afterwards explained, because of his variance from the Athanasian theology, but “because he doubted whether Arius really held what the anathema imputed to him” (Sozom. ii. 15). After the council he continued vigorously to espouse the Arian cause, and was so far carried away in his zeal against the Athanasians that he was temporarily banished from his see as a disturber of the peace of the church. But his alienation from the court was of short duration. He retained the confidence of the emperor’s sister Constantia, through whose influence he was promoted to the see of Nicomedia, and by her favour he was restored to his position, and speedily acquired an equal ascendancy over the emperor. He was selected to administer baptism to him in his last illness. There seems no doubt that Eusebius of Nicomedia was more of a politician than a theologian. He was certainly a partisan in the great controversy of his time, and is even credited (although on insufficient evidence) with having used unworthy means to procure the deposition of Eustathius, the “orthodox” bishop of Antioch (Theodoret i. 21). His restless ambition and love of power are not to be denied. To the last he defended Arius, and at the time of the latter’s sudden death, 336, it was chiefly through his menace, as representing the emperor, that the church of Constantinople was thrown into anxiety as to whether the leader should be readmitted to the bosom of the church. The death of Constantine followed hard upon that of Arius; and Eusebius, who was promoted in 339 to the see of Constantinople, became the leader of the anti-Nicene party till his own death in (probably) 341. The real activity of Eusebius and his party must be studied in connexion with the Arian controversy (see Arius).